Dabadie seeks to refine officer etiquette

Police Chief Carl Dabadie said Wednesday that he has made it a priority in his young administration to improve the way officers are communicating with the people they serve.

The “biggest complaint” the department receives “is not what we do, it’s how we talk to people,” Dabadie said at a meeting of the Baton Rouge Rotary Club. There are times, he said, “when you get used to dealing with the bad guys all the time and that flows over to the victim.”

“Sometimes they’re in bad moods and sometimes they’re not as friendly as they need to be, but I am working on that,” Dabadie said. “I have gotten with some people to try to help us with that and get us to educate our officers on how to better talk to people who have been through crisis.”

Cpl. L’Jean McKneely, a police spokesman, said the department is looking into hiring a private company to teach officers better communication skills. “They’re still in negotiations, so nothing is concrete,” McKneely said.

Dabadie, who was sworn in about two months ago, is known among his peers as a disciplinarian who has not hesitated to suspend wayward officers.

Beyond fulfilling their normal duties, Dabadie said, officers should be willing to change tires for stranded motorists and rescue cats from trees.

“We are so much more than just strictly law enforcement,” he said. “What I want to bring is higher levels of accountability on supervision and disciplinary actions taken when needed to ensure that we are producing the best possible service for this community.”

Describing the department he inherited as “a mess,” Dabadie said he has made several changes in his command staff to revitalize the force.

He has appointed new uniform patrol and detective commanders, as well as a new chief of staff and assistant, and said more changes are on the way.

“From time to time your house gets stuffy, and from time to time you have to open some windows and let some fresh air in,” Dabadie said. “I felt we needed to open the windows and let some fresh air in with some new faces and some new thoughts and new processes.”

The chief touted what he described as “a new way of policing in the parish,” saying local agencies have been working together on a regular basis.

“We are not separate any more. We are one unit,” Dabadie said, referring to weekly intelligence meetings attended by representatives of several agencies at the East Baton Rouge Parish Violent Crimes Unit.

That cooperation has only been strengthened, he said, by the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination project, a federally funded crime-fighting initiative that received another boost Wednesday in the form of an additional $1.4 million grant.

The funding, an extension of the BRAVE grant awarded last year, came days after city leaders announced the receipt of a $1 million grant that will be used to expand the program into the high-crime communities of Istrouma, Eden Park, Midtown and Greenville Extension.

Law enforcement officials have credited BRAVE with reducing crime rates in the parish.